Furniture is being installed, and new flooring is in place. In less than two weeks, CCAD students will present to Airstream executives a full-scale visual model of a proposed new mobile office/living space, fully outfitted with handmade furniture, electrical wiring, and custom-cut windows.
The partnership began in January when students made initial concept presentations to Airstream executives Bob Wheeler and Mollie Hansen for a mobile office/living space inspired by the company’s Live Riveted campaign encouraging Airstreamers to “Dream. Travel. Explore. Live.”
Interior and Industrial Design students constructed a life-size plywood model in January and February that they used to further develop their concepts. After a second presentation, Airstream provided a 23-foot aluminum shell for students to construct the visual model.
Unlike a prototype, the visual model is not fully functioning, but will look just like the finished product, said Tom Gattis, dean of the School of Design Arts.
“Models help designers sort through design issues such as size and scale proportions,” he said. “The process is long and tedious as students make cardboard mock-ups and then build using real materials.”
In addition to assisting in big-picture design decisions, building the visual model allows students to work through important technical and logistical elements like fresh- and wastewater storage for the bathroom and kitchen, proper lighting fixtures, conveniently placed electrical outlets, and ductwork for heating and cooling.
Industrial Design sophomore Russell Kittel designed and built furniture for the bedroom, bathroom, and vanity areas. He said the visual model is a crucial element to the design process. Without it, important details are easily lost.
“There are so many details that need to be accounted for that a scaled-down model would not be able to show,” Kittel said.
Such details also posed challenges for the designers, especially in a confined space with limited square footage.
“It was extremely difficult to design around so many required elements such as piping, electrical wiring, the heater, and structural ribs, and not always knowing the size or placement of those things,” said Industrial Design sophomore Joseph Pisauro. “You have to be able to adapt and accept that your initial plan or design will eventually change.”
Feedback was also sought throughout the building process from working professionals who fit one of the four target customer profiles that the students had outlined at the beginning of the semester: nomadic freelancer, creative merchant, remote researcher, and brand promoter.
A handful of self-identified nomadic freelancers—like field ecologist Peter Curtis—walked through the model with students in April and gave suggestions ranging from a mosquito net for the open hatchback to magnetized metal surfaces in the designated work space.
In addition to providing students with valuable hands-on experiences, the semester-long design and building process is equipping them for the professional world.
“Building the model helps the other students and myself become more skilled in the construction of models for future clients,” Kittel said. “I have learned so much from this project and I am thankful for it every day that I am in that room building this fantastic project.”
Students will finish the model and then present the finished product on May 7 to Airstream, who will evaluate it for manufacturing potential.
Kittel and Pisauro are from Columbus, OH. Kittel attended Lincoln High School.
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